Monday, May 7, 2018

D'oh! I bet Ruth Manning-Sanders had a cow when she saw this in 1932

In 1932, Ruth Manning-Sanders saw her seventh novel released. It was titled She Was Sophia, and it was published by Cobden-Sanderson of London. While I'm sure the novelty of being an author had worn off a little bit, there must still be a fresh rush of excitement that accompanies each new book reaching the public.

Here's the first page of that Manning-Sanders book...

And here's the title page...

And, alas, here is the spine of the book...

You had one job, bookbinder! I'm sure Ruth's heart sank, and perhaps she also uttered a curse or two, when she saw that her book's title had been misspelled as She Was Sofia on the spine. For what it's worth, the book's title is spelled correctly on both the front and spine of the dust jacket, as seen in the picture to the right (which I found in an online search). But it's definitely wrong on the spine of the actual book.

As this was one of Manning-Sanders' more obscure novels, the misspelling has created a lot of confusion and incorrect information about the book's title to be circulated over the decades. I know that I'm guilty, and believed the title to be She Was Sofia until I actually got my hands on a copy of the book.

But let the record clearly state: It's She Was Sophia.

The novel's first sentence provides even further reinforcement of Manning-Sanders' intentions: "The creation of Sophia Cavendish had been a somewhat casual event in the lives of two people whose minds were, generally speaking, entirely concerned with other things — John Jarvie's with his painting and Hannah Cavendish's with her business of buying and selling."

As of today, there are a nearly equal number of Google hits for She Was Sophia and She Was Sofia. I hope that this post, plus my fixing of the bibliography on Manning-Sanders' Wikipedia page, will turn the tide in favor of the correct spelling.

Here is the full set of vital statistics, for posterity:

  • Title: She Was Sophia
  • Author: Ruth Manning-Sanders
  • Publisher: Cobden-Sanderson, London
  • Year: 1932
  • Pages: 320
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Folklore reference #1: " a brisk walk 'widdershins' all round the island."
  • Folklore reference #2: "The porch reminded Sophia uncomfortably of the oven in the story of Hansel and Gretel..."
  • Review in The Guardian (December 2, 1932): "The novel with a child as hero is apt to annoy the sophisticated palate. Either it is cloyingly sweet or else it has a bounce and vigour which make the reader longer for an old-fashioned Papa to walk into the pages with his slipper prepared for administration. In Mrs. Manning-Sanders' new book there is nothing but delight. Her Sophia is only seven at the end of the story, but she is a child of so much authentic life and interest that she scarcely needs her surrounding chorus of men and women. Sophia was born of a chance encounter between Hannah Cavendish, shopkeeper, and John Jarvie, artist. By another twist of fate she, as "adopted niece" of Hannah, meets her father the first time when she is seven years old, on a small island off the Cornish coast. In this situation are a dozen pitfalls for sentimentality, and the author avoids them all. She handles the tragedy of illegitimacy with the same dexterous coolness that she gives to John Jarvie's warped and lovesick landlady, to Sophia breaking a valuable bowl in her efforts to study the 'rude' horse painted on it, to Nat Willis consoling himself through his schooldays by thoughts of the hell-fire sermons he will later deliver. The book is full of good scenes and rounded personalities. It is gay, shrewd, well written."

Here are some other reviews She Was Sophia garnered, from an advertisement in the November 20, 1932, edition of The Observer of London:

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Note: This post, as you now realize, has absolutely nothing to do with The Simpsons. I just thought those expressions made for a fun headline. My original thought for the headline was "I bet Ruth Manning-Sanders had a hissyfit when she saw this."

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